Minnesota pledges $400K to reduce number of Native American kids in foster care
With the number of Native American children in Minnesota foster care reaching "unacceptable" levels, the state pledged this week to spend $400,000 over the next three years to reduce those numbers.
The announcement comes after a Star Tribune report found that Minnesota has more Native American children in foster care than any other state, including those with significantly larger Native American populations. Less than 2 percent of children in Minnesota are Native American, but they make up nearly a quarter of the state's foster care population — a disparity that is more than double the next-highest state.
"This disparity in outcomes for Minnesota children is unacceptable," Minnesota Department of Human Services Commissioner Emily Johnson Piper said in a statement Thursday.
Once taken from their families, Native American children generally fare worse than other children, according to a Star Tribune analysis. They stay longer in foster care, move among more homes and cycle more often between foster care and their birth families. Children who turn 18 while in foster care and "age out" of the system are less likely to graduate from college and find a job. One in four will suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. One in five will become homeless.
DHS and the University of Minnesota Duluth teamed up to create a pilot project that in the first year will research the causes of why so many Native American children are being removed from their homes in St. Louis County, said Jim Koppel, assistant commissioner for Children and Family Services for DHS.
Using those lessons, the second year will see the university and DHS implement training for child protection workers to better respond to Native American families, and the third year will be spent measuring those results.
Koppel said a similar program implemented from 2000-2010 saw a significant reduction in the percentage of black children placed into foster care.
Last month the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services awarded a five-year grant to UMD worth more than $2 million to create a better delivery system for the Indian Child Welfare Act, a federal law meant to keep Native American kids with Native American families.
UMD's Center for Regional and Tribal Welfare at UMD will lead the work and partner with Duluth's 6th Judicial District, St. Louis County Public Health and Human Services, the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges, Leech Lake Tribal Court and both the Fond du Lac and Grand Portage bands of Lake Superior Chippewa.
The Duluth News Tribune contributed to this report.
[[[Editor's note: When I was doing research for my book One Small Sacrifice, the people who brought testimony to Congress recited similar figures. Little has changed. Minnesota is where I was born... and I still have no original birth certificate... Trace]]]